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What’s Your Definition Of Intelligence? The Importance Of Making Finer Distinctions In Life
Every day one hears the word “intelligence” being used in different situations by different people. For instance, you may have heard of an intelligent “writer”, intelligent “student”, intelligent “speaker”, intelligent “artist”, PLUS in a less acceptable sense, an “intelligent THIEF” etc ! 🙂 .
In this article, I advocate the adoption of what I consider ONE all embracing, and real-world relevant definition of intelligence, which I believe will help all those who use it live more successful lives.
What Exactly Is Intelligence?
The word intelligence basically refers to some form of ability to do things. In conventional use for instance, the term typically describes a person’s (academic) aptitude regarding the use of words, figures, and various forms of computation. A broader application is inclusive of body skills(e.g. an intelligent footballer), familiarity with concrete materials, ability to adjust to new conditions and/or facilities in solving new problems etc.
“The brain can be developed just the same as the muscles can be developed, if one will only take the pains to train the mind to think” – Thomas Alva Edison
Intelligence is also used to describe how a person deals generally with people, things, ideas and events. Research has shown that about 20% variation in the Intelligence Quotient (IQ – expressed as a ratio of an individual’s mental age to her chronological or real age) of individuals is caused by factors like quality of nutrition; health; sleep; experience; social contact; drugs taken by mother and general upbringing.
But age has been found to have little influence on the level of intelligence as measured by IQ. In fact it’s been found that maximum mental growth is achievable at age 13, stabilizing at about 70. Also, and contrary to societal myth, modern brain research has now shown clearly that mental abilities of human beings do not reduce with ageing.
Tony Buzan (inventor of the world-famous Mind Maps®) who is widely regarded as a world authority on the brain, memory, creativity, and speed reading, reports – in his Speed Reading book – that Dr. Marion Diamond of the University of California confirmed via research findings that “there is no evidence of brain cell loss with age in normal, active and healthy brains”.
It was found that if a person actively uses and “trains” her brain (Buzan’s Centers and books teach HOW), there is a “biological increase in its inter connectivity complexity resulting in a significant rise in the person’s intelligence”. This explains why after people in their sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties are “brain trained” at Buzan’s centers, measurable, statistically significant and permanent improvements are achieved by the old people in every area of mental performance! By the way, one (long-discovered) way of training your brain is by frequent reading and thinking – according to geniuses like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.
Most debated probably has been the issue of how Sex and Race affect intelligence. It was once believed (and some still do today) that the black race was less intelligent than their white counterparts, and females less than males. There is however no conclusive research evidence to support those assumptions – especially as the contribution of culture and environmental exposure to development of an indivdual’s intelligence for the most part remains difficult to quantify.
A Definition I Advocate For Adoption(Using “Academic Performance”, “Murder Investigations”, And “Interpersonal Communication” As Case Studies)
Over the years it’s been agreed that IQ is limited as a measure of intelligence – even in the academic dimension. Intelligence has increasingly become recognized as a result of one’s total life experiences. This means intelligence tests results express how well one has learnt to achieve in the areas, which are being measured by the test. This is why I believe that Robert Kiyosaki’s father’s definition of Intelligence, as “the ability to make finer distinctions” is most appropriate for real-life use.
1. Schooling: When Robert Kiyosaki was ten years old, his friend and classmate Andy was announced to the class(after an IQ test the entire class had taken), as a “genius with a high IQ”. But Robert’s father in response to his son’s subsequent queries about the definition of intelligence simply told him it referred to a person’s “ability to make finer distinctions”.
Robert said he learnt from his Dad’s explanation that Andy his friend was smarter than him in the classroom because he could learn better there, but that did not mean Andy was smarter than Robert(THAT was the “finer” distinction”). This understanding went a long way to make him finish his schooling instead of dropping out for fear of being called stupid etc.
“A person does not need to go to college to learn facts. He can learn them from books. The value of a liberal arts college education is that it trains the mind to think…Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
2. Murder Investigations: In the society I live/work in some types of law enforcement agents are renowned for their aversion for “making finer distinctions”. For instance, when one of them sees a dead body, a knife and a man seemingly “loitering” nearby, s/he immediately decides the loitering man MUST have killed the dead person – else what could s/he be doing there at that point in time(God help us all!).
So s/he conveniently puts the “loiterer” in jail and tells his/her boss a suspect has been found. Soon (except the poor “loiterer” has providence on his side), the case is announced as solved, and a possibility innocent person sentenced to time in prison! Why do they do this? One school of thought has it that maybe because that option requires the least thinking – or quickly satisfies people that justice has been done, and frees the agency from having to answer questions about how far investigations have gone and so on.
Under different circumstances, a murder investigation would be prosecuted more thoroughly. Typically, the lead detective/investigator will go the extra mile to do some thinking. Often s/he would try to establish a “motive”, and in the process probably discover something others missed and (maybe) end up finding the “true” killer. The logic is that except a person is confirmed mad or insane, he/she would have had a “convincing enough reason”(motive) for committing a crime.
The investigator has to establish what that motive was, and get concrete evidence to support his findings. If he cannot, the law prevents him from holding on to the suspect longer than a specified period. So he continues digging. This method has helped detect people being “framed” or who decided to own up to crimes they did not commit so as to protect loved ones.
Agatha Christie’s suspense filled detective stories provide an excellent example of how deep thinking is(and should be) applied by investigating officers in solving cases of crime. The lead character – Inspector Hercule Poirot – solves cases by applying deductive reasoning and making finer distinctions.
The moral here: Actually derives from looking at the methodology employed by the investigators. They get information, then subject it to logical reasoning against the background of prior information, and based on that make deductions which then guide them on deciding what action to take – leads to follow etc. It takes people who do plenty of deep thinking and strive to make finer distinctions(so as to avoid jumping to wrong conclusions) to work like that.
“Sometimes the obvious thing is not always the correct or most important thing.” – Tayo K. Solagbade
3. Interpersonal Communication: Successful communication has occurred when the words I write/speak to another person(s) are received and understood by my target audience exactly as I intended it. However there are two sides to the communication process – that of the “communicator” and that, of the “communicatee”. If the former does a good job of passing her ideas across, it does not necessarily follow that the latter will receive(or “admit” receiving) the intended communication!
This may be so for 2 main reasons. One, the communicatee may unconsciously have “noises” (like biases, preconceptions, past experiences etc) interfering with his interpretation of the message. Secondly, he may simply deliberately feign misunderstanding to make a point. Both cases happen all the time. Sometimes it is said that people will hear only what they want to hear – no matter how many times you tell them what you actually mean. (Re: Inter-tribal, ethnic or racial conflicts). This almost hopelessly booby trapped situation that anyone who has to communicate with others faces, I believe is what led Dan Kennedy to refer to what he called a “Communication Minefield”.
For a sincere hearer to truly understand a message, he/she must be objective, listen actively(and not pretend to) and be able to make those finer distinctions i.e. apply intelligence. But then not everyone knows how to do the last part i.e. make the distinctions. And that’s why I am writing this article( to impress upon the reader the NEED for him/her to begin to do this from now on). It is also why we must thank Robert Kiyosaki for sharing his father’s definition.
A reporter once asked Albert Einstein: “What is the speed of sound?”, to which the genius replied: “I don’t know. I don’t carry information in my mind that is readily available in books”.
NOTE: I strongly believe children should be brought up to have the kind of understanding of what it means to be intelligent that Albert Einstein had – as indicated by his response to the above mentioned reporter.
Always Weigh “The Evidence” Or “Information” Or “News” About A Person/Issue Against Your Personal Observations BEFORE Taking A Stand!
Let me put it this way. A Police investigator that arrests, jails and get conviction of an innocent person for a crime the latter did not commit will likely be called “stupid” or “unintelligent” by his boss if/when eventually his error is revealed.
So, to appear intelligent, you must not only strive to employ objective, deductive reasoning and thinking, but you must also have the courage to follow your resultant insight/convictions right to the end, so that your actions end up being appropriate and justified. Let’s face it there is hardly anyone who doesn’t want to be called intelligent !
So when next someone comes up to you, for instance, with some “gossip” or negative information about another person, you might want to (and I do mean “literally”!) pick up a teaspoon of salt and put it in your mouth to jolt your senses, and help you remember to “make finer distinctions” in assessing the person you have been told about. I have seen many highly educated and otherwise extremely intelligent persons so readily draw conclusions about someone they have NEVER even met, based on negative information fed to them by another person.
It is my considered opinion, that evidence of a person’s true intelligence – and education – can be readily seen in how s/he weight information available about a person or issue against actual observations s/he is able to make through deliberate personal effort. Many times those who fail to look below the surface fall victim of deliberate manipulation by devious persons against their perceived rivals or opponents I do not like being used, and will never try to use anyone against another.
However societies tend not to be lacking in people who readily resort to campaigns of calumny to discredit someone they dislike, and this works quite well when those they feed the bad information fail to “apply their powers of discretion and discernment” by checking to confirm that what they have been told is a true and accurate representation of the person or issue in contention.
The result: Reputations are ruined; characters assassinated and lives/careers destroyed. If not for anything else, I urge you – for the sake of your own good name – to begin making finer distinctions today, in deciding how to use information that those you meet or relate with pass to you. Chances are great that over time, you will not only discover those around you whose word cannot be depended upon, BUT you will also avoid being named as one of those responsible for spreading falsehood about others.
Final Words: Some People’s Egos Keep Them from Learning!
And that’s because they hold faulty definitions of intelligence in their minds. They think being intelligent means appearing to be “cool, calm and collected”; never making mistakes, failing or being at fault i.e. always being right(in fact they MAKE SURE of this by doing everything possible to hide away ANY and EVERY evidence of their failures or mistakes, so no one ever gets to know!). But that does not really work in the end, as the limited and mediocre, accomplishments they record in their lives very often attest to the fact that they have not been sincere in their past actions!
Learning is a never-ending journey. Yet after one little achievement, some people “hang up their gloves” and go ahead to live on THAT “old glory” till they die. Worse still they seem to be able to find others who praise them for doing so! The reverse obtains where there is an entrenched culture of striving perpetually for excellence. In such successful societies, people have a habit of “making finer distinctions” – and so never settle for average, since they always realize they can do better if they try harder.
To achieve our full potentials as individuals and as a nation, we must adopt the right definition of intelligence, and begin to make finer distinctions in our everyday pursuits so as to achieve sustainable progress.
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